The Curious Case of Benjamin Button / our review

INTIMATE Heartfelt beautiful

Jun 13th, 2023

Kitty

Kitty

It's going to be huge - do not miss out.

A charismatic ensemble creates theatrical alchemy in this charming folktale with shades of Once and Come From Away.

From a crotchety old man in F.Scott Fitzgerald's original novella to a schmaltzy Hollywood film, the story of Benjamin Button has evolved over the last century as it ages, with this glorious, musical reworking from Jethro Compton and Mark Apsinall and Darren Clark representing not just the best iteration of the strange tale, but the best of British theatre available at the moment. 

A genuine delight from the first, Benjamin Button's remarkable aging-in-reverse tale is transported to a tiny Cornish fishing village in the early 1900s, where it is heralded by Cornish verse, by an ever-present, charismatic on-stage ensemble. The cast display a virtuosic performance, playing their instruments and singing ribald lyrics as they set the scene for Benjamin's much-longed-for birth, foreshadowing time's arrow with glee until we meet him. Instead of the anticipated infant, this baby is an old man of 70, complete with his own reading glasses, whose appearance is met with more than a little chagrin from his very surprised parents.

From this less-than-auspicious beginning, things only get worse for Benjamin, scorned by his father and abandoned by his mother (two heartfelt performances from Benedict Salter and Phillipa Hogg) he is kept out of sight in an attic, with only the moon for company.

But where it is expected he will continue to age, he doesn't, becoming only more and more spry with every passing day. Eventually, after a decade, he escapes his jail to seek his heart's desire. It's not long until he finds it either, ending up at the local pub, he falls hook, line, and sinker for the spirited barmaid Elow, setting the course of the rest of his life.

And how tremendously that life is presented! In a vivid, funny, achingly moving, and unmissable production, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button grabs you with everything it has, sweeping you off your feet in a whirlwind of fantastic acting, performing, wonderfully realised score, costume, scenic design, and choreography. It's at once intimate and expansive, creating an atmosphere that lingers once you've left the theatre - likely with tears down your face like this reviewer.

With Olivier and Tony winner Jamie Parker (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, The History Boys) at the helm as Benjamin, we're treated to a truly magnetic performance. A master of his craft, he manipulates his physicality, voice, and intention with seeming ease to embody Button from old man to self-conscious teen (the show, thankfully stops there, with Compton's design and Chi-San Howard's choreography taking over for the final portion). Alongside Molly Osbourne as Eloe does fantastic work as she begins as a wide-eyed young woman, aging the normal way up to and beyond her husband, capturing a lifetime with similar mastery (with special mention for her very believable sheep!) Where these two lead, the cast follow, with every one of them presenting stunning performances.

Another magnificent example of the sheer joy of live theatre that comes when every part of a production imbues care and love, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button excels on every level, leaving you with hope for the future and more than a spring in your step. It's going to be huge - do not miss out.

View our show pages for more information about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ambassadors Theatre.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ambassadors Theatre, London

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Ambassadors Theatre: Oct 10, 2024

Following its critically acclaimed run at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant last year, with Olivier and Tony winners Jamie Parker and Molly Osbourne, alongside a talented ensemble, The Curious Case Of Benjamin...more info

Book TicketsBook tickets for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ambassadors Theatre, London

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